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On the editing process, and NaNoWriMo October 18, 2008

Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, writing.
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I don’t have a lot of experience writing novels.

That is, I don’t have much experience finishing them.  While I have begun writing possibly as much as twenty novels over the years and have ideas for several I have not yet begun to write, there are only two that I have written to their end, The Fire Within and Aurius.  Aside from those, the only time I have managed to get even halfway through a novel was the previous incarnation of The Fire Within, which I wrote to within a few chapters of completion before finally giving up on a story I had already come to realize was pretty weak and inconsistent.

As such, I haven’t dealt with large-scale editing much.  A few months ago, I began reworking The Fire Within, but I didn’t get long before I became held up with fundamental problems with the story that needed to be resolved before I could continue, and it went on the back burner since then.

Aurius was a stroke of luck, pure and simple.  I had some fairly solid ideas for the characters and story, especially the star, going into last year’s NaNoWriMo, and the last quarter of the book was fairly well planned out.  Aside from that, however, I didn’t have much of a plan.  I needed one brainstorming session late in the month to determine, after nearly 50,000 words already, where the rest of the story was going and how I was going to get to the ending I had figured out long ago.  As it happened, all the pieces fell into place far better than I expected, with even small details thrown in early for the heck of it ending up to have relevance later in the story, sometimes major.  I had to do very minor editing after I was finished with the story to complete it to my satisfaction, and I could not be happier with it.  This is why I am not and will not be discouraged by rejections from publishers; I know I wrote something good here.

The Fire Within is another matter.  The first time I gave up on the story was in 2001 or 2002.  For several years off and on I tried to make something else of the characters or story, and it was in 2006 that I decided to take the original story, rework the characters and put them in a new world.  I wasn’t even finished writing the novel before I knew that it would need some serious editing to clean it up.  Not enough foreshadowing is laid in early in the book for what comes later, making it seem somewhat contrived when it occurs.  One of the characters was a little too angsty – though I did work very hard to avoid that, and considering the character’s background, I think I did a fairly good job of it.  The events of the second half of the book seem a little rushed.

The more I looked at the story, however, the more fundamental, and more bothersome, the problems became.  I didn’t like the conflict in the second half of the story.  This connected to many aspects of the story that simply didn’t work so well.  I think I was in the midst of my initial reworking when inspiration hit me to begin writing Eyes of a Dragon, and given the problems I had with TFW, it wasn’t a hard decision to let it sit.  Don’t get me wrong – I liked what I wrote for TFW, or at least the way I wrote it.  I just don’t think what I wrote makes the best story.

I also like what I wrote for the next revision.

In a sudden fit of inspiration this week, I broke out the reworked story and reread what I’d written, only 36 pages of it so far.  I’m very pleased with it.  I show a lot more of what I simply told in the last version and I like the characters’ actions and reactions so far.  It’s a strong opening, and with the brainstorming I did in recent weeks to clean up the major issues I had with the first version, I’m feeling optimistic about the progression of the story from here.

I’ve never really worked with different drafts of a story before.  I’ve tried to write Eyes of a Dragon six times over the years, but each time, I got to a point at which I realized it simply wasn’t working and started over, and as such, it didn’t really seem to me like they were different drafts of the story.  With The Fire Within, each of the first two drafts I’ve written so far have worked on their own, but each time, it’s been improved upon.  And I’m hopeful that this draft will be the final one.

Granted, being two weeks away from November, I don’t have a lot of time to work on this before my creative energies must be poured into Halcyon.  Still, if I have a solid foundation set before I start on that novel, hopefully I can get back into The Fire Within afterward, and continue at the heady pace set by NaNoWriMo.  I know both where the story’s going and what I need to improve on from the last revision.  I’m doing a bit more rewriting than I had thought I would, but I’m okay with that.  This is going to be the best TFW yet.

Incidentally, it occurs to me that I never actually mentioned here that I registered for NaNoWriMo this year.  With all the novels I have ready to write and especially with the resounding success with Aurius last year, there was no way I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  If you’re also going to be in on the madness, feel free to add my profile to your writing buddies list.  I always enjoy meeting new people, I’m just bad at it.

For those who don’t know NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, this is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.  It encourages you to throw standards out the window and just write, something that I think all us writers, and those who don’t normally write, need.  Nothing is at stake here other than the ability to say you wrote a novel, which makes it both relaxed and hectic at once.  The results can be a jumbled mess, which can only be expected when you force-write so much in so little time – or it can be the best thing you’ve ever written.  The only way to find out is to write.

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